Don’t let holidays be happy for crooks

During the Christmas and holiday season people are often busy, excited and a little careless. Unfortunately it’s a time when they should be extra careful. This season don’t let the spirit of giving lull you into giving burglars, pick-pockets, purse snatchers and con artists a better chance to do their dirty work. Crooks love the holidays as much as everyone else.

Here are some tips on how to celebrate this season and make the holidays a safe and happy time.

At home:

1. Be extra careful about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even if only for a few minutes. Also lock garages and sheds.

2. Don’t display gifts where they can be seen from a window or door, leave only a few presents out and store the remainder.

3. If out at night turn on a radio or TV so the house looks occupied.

4. If you go away for a few days get an automatic timer for lights and TV. Have a neighbor watch your house, shovel snow, pick up mail and newspapers (or have them held until you return) and park their car in your driveway from time to time.

5. Be wary of strangers coming to the door, asking for donations or a courier delivering a gift. Ask for ID and if you don’t feel comfortable don’t open the door, call the police.

6. Be wary of scam and con artists, be very careful who you give your personal information and bank account or credit card information to. Your bank will not call on the phone or come to the door asking this information. Ask for and check on references, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you feel you are being pressured or don’t understand. Remember if it sounds to good to be true it probably is.

7. Check electronic items and mark them with a unique identification number.

8. Use only fire-resistant ornaments and check lights to make sure they are safe. Teach children not to play with lights and electrical connections and avoid overloading outlets and using extension cords. Remember to keep live trees watered and do not leave tree lights on overnight or when away from home.

9. Test your smoke detector and if you have guests let them know about your security and escape plan in case of an emergency.

When shopping:

1. Stay alert and be aware of what’s going on around you.

2. Shop before dark if possible and coordinate with a friend or relative if you plan on being out late.

3. Park in well lighted areas and be sure to lock car doors and close windows. Secure items in the trunk and have keys ready to enter your vehicle and check the interior before getting in. Once inside lock the doors and don’t open them or get back out. Use your car panic alarm if you are being followed or feel uncomfortable.

4. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and deter pick pockets and purse snatchers by carrying your purse under the arm and keeping wallets in front pockets.

5. Teach children to go to a store clerk or security guard if they become separated or lost. Teach them to stay close and avoid contact with strangers.

6. Be careful with internet purchases, use reputable sites and secure payments such as pay-pal or a credit card. Avoid using a debit card on internet purchases.

If you have celebrated a little too much at a holiday party or out with family and friends and you can’t safely and responsibly operate your vehicle please don’t. Be a designated driver, find a designated driver or call a taxi. If you really care you won’t let your friends or loved ones operate a vehicle when you know that it can’t be done safely and responsibly. Please take the needed steps to avoid the senseless tragedies that occur on our highways as a result of drinking and driving or reckless operation.

Also please make sure that everyone in the vehicle wears a seatbelt and children are in proper child safety restraints. It’s a proven fact that seatbelts and child safety seats save lives. Make sure you clear snow and ice from your vehicle, keep an emergency pack with items such as blankets and a flashlight in your car and plan extra time on trips to allow for changing road conditions.

Also we encourage anyone who sees or hears anything suspicious or out of the ordinary in their neighborhood to please call the Police Department Desk at 366-2266 when it is happening. We would much rather send a car to check the situation than to find out at a later time that something happened and we could have had immediate information. We also advise residents to not open their doors to anyone unless they know who it is, again please call 366-2266 or 911 and have a patrol car respond.

Make time to get together with family and friends and think about reaching out and helping senior citizens or those who are less fortunate. Take a little time to make the Holidays a safe and happy time for everybody. On behalf of the Dunkirk Police Department please have a safe, happy and joyous Christmas and New Year Holiday Season.

David Ortolano is chief of the Dunkirk Police Department.